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Friday, 19 July 2013

My week

We have been having a bit of a "staycation" here recently in view of the current warm sunny weather.  We managed to keep the diary clear and pretended that we were on a self catering holiday!  I must say the accommodation is very homely and has everything we need, there's been no need to take Thomas to a cattery, no waiting at airports nor needing travel insurance we just get up in the mornings and decide what we feel like doing.


 First off we went to Exeter to walk along the Exeter Ship Canal as far as Topsham - this was the walk I had hoped to do when I set off on my Bus Pass Trip back in June but as the ferry across the river at Topsham doesn't run on a Tuesday and it was of course Tuesday when I went I had had to cross over further upstream a mile or so where there was a bridge. (That's not us in the distance but another elderly couple!)

 This time it was Friday not Tuesday and according to the Tourist  Information Office as long as we reached the ferry before 3.00 pm when it would stop running due to low tides we'd be alright this time.

 It was a lovely day for a walk with sufficient breeze to prevent us getting too hot.  I was glad I wasn't carrying my big back pack though or it might have been a different story!

There's something cooling about walking beside water I always think.

 It was all very buccolic and peaceful in spite of the fact that it was only a short distance from the city and there were industrial buildings on the other side of the canal and trains too passing on their way to Exeter and pylons in many of the views but the human brain is very good at editing out those!

The noise from the motorway was harder to ignore however - I was glad I was  down here amongst the greenery and not thundering along above!

 Soon the noise was left behind though and the path continued between the greenery and the flowers with the canal just over to the left.

 What a lovely little cottage we spied on the other side of the canal - this view made me wish I could paint!

 We wandered on and soon came to a little bridge across the canal and discovered...

...we were at the cottage and what is more it was a cafe!  How lovely was that as by now it was time for something to eat and a bit of a sit down.  Apparently this is called Lock Keepers Cottage and during July and August is a cafe and the rest of the year can be rented as a self catering holiday cottage.

We decided to eat inside as all the outdoor tables were in the sun and we were by now quite warm.  This was the view from the upstairs room where we chose to sit - lovely isn't it?  I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven and was just thinking that what would make it absolutely perfect would be if there were a few crisps alongside the sandwiches - for some reason I'd been fancying crisps for the past few days and since we rarely buy any I hadn't had any to hand at home.  Well when the lady mounted the stairs carrying our lunch - my hummus and salad sandwich and elderflower presse, and Mr M's ham and salad plus an orange juice I knew just what heaven will be like if I ever get there as sure enough alongside the lovely sandwich with side salad was a little pile of good quality crisps!!  Doesn't take a lot to make me happy does it?!  Imagine what it might be like to rent the cottage and to sleep in this very room with the canal just outside and the distant countryside beyond - I am sure I'd sleep well here!

After a leisurely lunch we caught the little ferry boat with one other person and a dog, which sure enough would not be running after 3.15 today, and crossed the river Exe to Topsham.

 Topsham has a Dutch influence as you can see from the shape of the buildings and very attractive it all is but we had visited earlier in the year and had a good wander round so this time we just caught the bus back to Exeter, bus passes at the ready and after a short wait having just missed one, and from there took the train home again.  A lovely day out.


On Tuesday we decided to do a walk which Mr M had found on the internet - we needed somewhere that would be shaded as it was set to be hot again.  We duly set off after breakfast for Maiden Newton less than 15 miles away from where we would start our walk.

 The walk was called Chalk stream, Dragonflies and St George  and sounded just about right for a hot day. We wandered along the banks of the River Frome which burbled over the pebbles and looked most inviting being very clear and clean.  This was of course the chalk stream mentioned in the walk title.  We also noticed many dragon flies en route although I didn't manage to get a photo of any of those!

About 11.00 we decided to stop and have our elevenses having come across this bench in the shade.

After our refreshments - a flask of tea and a slice of cake I'd made for just this sort of picnic (notice the designer lunch bag - a recycled frozen pea bag!) - we set off again.

 Through lovely countryside...

 .. and along pretty lanes with wild flowers everywhere.

Here we crossed a little ford - the walk description had said it might be muddy in places and so it was even in the current heat when all around is dried to a cinder - it would require wellingtons to walk this route in the winter I think.

 The path led on past stands of pink rosebay willowherb and frothy cream meadowsweet...

...across this little bridge..

..alongside the river again....

with views of typical Dorset countryside here and there.

 We reached Cattistock in time for an early lunch.  Cattistock is a pretty village with many lovely cottages like this one.  After a sandwich and a drink in the local pub, which was obviously very popular and soon filled up so just as well we were there early, we set off again stopping at the church where we were told we would find St George and the Dragon from the walk title...

 ... and so we did painted on the wall of the baptistry inside!  There is a magnificent 20 foot high font cover here which was installed in the early 1900s which you can see to the left of the photo and isn't that ceiling lovely too.

 It was a lovely little country church with some beautiful stained glass windows including this one in the Arts and Cratfts style and designed by William Morris and Sir Edward Burne Jones.

We left the cool interior of the church and continued on our way, by now the idea of paddling in the chalk stream was most attractive as we wandered along in the dappled shade.

There was even a little "beach" just here though it wasn't really sand.

On the homeward straight now and we were soon back at Maiden Newton where the car was still in the shade where we'd parked it which was a wonder!  Back at home I sat in the garden with my cup of tea and a book and was well content.  I even went as far as to fill a tray with water and paddle my feet in it since I hadn't actually taken my boots off at the river!  Thomas wasn't too pleased though as I had used the tray he likes to drink out of and I had to wash it out and refill it for him as having sniffed it he wasn't going to risk drinking it after my sweaty feet had been in it!!


This time we decided to go to Weymouth - knowing that once the school holidays begin it will be heaving with holiday makers and we usually give it a miss then till September.  There were still plenty of people on the beach although nobody watching the Punch and Judy just yet.

We were headed for the Rodwell Trail - an old disused railway line between Weymouth and Portland which we had walked this time last year almost to the day but this was another shady walk.  It's obviously been a long time since any trains stopped here!

We enjoyed the walk, level and easy and much of the early part at least being in the shade.

We stopped for lunch at Sandsfoot Castle where we were lucky enough to find a table in the shade of a tree at the little cafe hut and we sat enjoying our sandwich and drink looking out across the harbour.

The castle was built by Henry VIII  - well probably not him but his minions! - after the Reformation as he feared attacks from the Catholic continent and had several such castles built along the south coast - mustn't it be awful to be powerful and rich but afraid of attack all the time?  I'd rather be me!

The Trail continues along the coast to Ferrybridge where we got a bus back to town and then home in time for Mr M to watch some more of the Tour de France with his cup of tea...

 ...whilst I took mine out in the garden along with my book The Road to Tholonet by Monty Don which I can recommend if you are interested in France, the French and gardens.


Was decreed a "domestic day" as it was too hot to go far although I did walk the half hour walk into town keeping in the shade but I nearly expired on the bus coming home and wished I'd decided to walk back as well as I am sure it would have been cooler!  No photos as Thursday involved some indoor games sorting out my photos, some ironing, and some sitting in the garden with yet another cup of tea and my book!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Watching the wildlife in the garden

 I have just been sitting in the shade at the table in the garden with my cup of tea and enjoying watching the antics of our resident blackbird and his wife.

 The attraction was this little tree - amalanchier canadensis - which has tiny fruit they apparently enjoy but these are on very delicate little branches not strong enough to take even the weight of a blackbird.

 Mrs BB came first and tried to take a berry and her weight made the branch bend so much she fell to the ground but still with the berry in her beak.  She flew off into the woods you can see over our fence here and soon returned to have another go.  Maybe she has young ones who all want one!

 After a couple of trips Mr BB arrived and he had a different approach - he stood on the ground beneath the tree eyeing up the prize and then jumped up to grab it!  After a few turns each they didn't return - maybe because the babies had had one each or maybe because I was trying to get a photo.

This is the same couple of blackbirds I think who came daily in the winter for their porridge.  Yes I did say porridge!  I was having porridge each morning for my breakfast and wondered if the birds might enjoy the pan scrapings along with the seed I usually put out and yes the blackbird did like it and started to come every day, bringing his wife, and to be ready and waiting when I put it out.  One morning I decided to have muesli instead and he got very annoyed that there was no porridge to the point that I actually made a small amount of porridge for him and he soon gobbled that up and seemed to say "Not before time"!  He has become incredibly tame - too tame for his own good I think and he will have his bath within feet of me sitting on the bench outside the kitchen door.  Mrs BB is a little more circumspect though and if she sees me she flies off but Blackie as I call him is as tame as a robin now!!  Thomas is no danger to them now that he is elderly and a bit slow but I can't be sure no other cats are not hiding in the garden - it would be sad if Mr BB's trust is misplaced one day.